Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Maggie Daley Ice Ribbon

The time we went ice skating at a place suited more for the Rockefellers....or folks from Minneapolis.  Visit today's Chicago Parent HERE.


The Near-Miss

The near-miss. 

It is the theme of my life.  I should have met my husband a hundred times before I was 27 years old.  We knew many of the same people.  We went to the same college.  I once celebrated St. Patrick's Day at his house  ten minutes after he departed for another bash.

In many ways, Joe could have easily been another near-miss.  The Fates must have been ready to pull their hair out by the time they successfully got us together in the same hotel lobby (me as an event planner and Joe as a union decorator) two days after a late-night, beer-infused first encounter at the legendary Old St. Pat's block party.

Danny, aged 5, waiting for his daddy to come home from firehouse.
That night, Joe offered me a free bratwurst.  I convinced myself that this guy was obviously not "the one."  The love of my life would be a sushi sophisticate, perhaps a North Shore grad, and surely not some sausage-hawking southsider.

Then we spotted each other in that lobby.  It was pure coincidence.  And the most important near-miss of my life to date was averted.

I have had near-misses involving national tragedies, sorted scandals, and plain old stupid decisions that would have resulted in great unhappiness.

I do not know if I have an angel on my shoulder or if I am just plain lucky.

That is a lie.

I totally have an angel on my shoulder.  I call her Barb.  For some reason, Barb has been steering me away from misfortunate my entire life.

Not that I haven't experienced misfortune.

But Barb has a great track record.  I don't think she sleeps much.

Last night, I was driving home with all three of my sons in the minivan.  We had done some last-minute shopping.  Danny needed a Christmas outfit (I had to battle with him to see that track pants and a hoodie weren't appropriate clothes to mark the Savior's birth).  It was also a ploy so I could give my husband time to assemble the large metal wagon the kids were getting for Christmas to support their new recycling business. 

It was rainy and dark.  The roads were packed.  I came to a stop at a light that already had a line going back countless cars.  A few seconds later, some sort of noise (I am not sure if it was honking or the screech of brakes) drew my attention.  A car came barreling along and drove onto the sidewalk next to me.  The driver then smashed full-on into a streetlight.

That was when time stood still.  Shocked, I watched as the streetlight began to topple.  Jammed into my spot by traffic, I had nowhere to go to get out of its way.  I anticipated the trajectory, and realized with horror it was about to smash into the passenger side of my minivan, closest to Dan.

I didn't have any time to pull my son away or even formulate a plan before the post landed harmlessly next to us, with maybe two inches to spare.

Shakily, I was able to turn off the main street and call 911 for help.  I then walked back over to the other driver to see if she was okay.  My kids were following me, freaking the hell out, and begging to go back to the safety of the minivan on the side street as cars whizzed by.  They wouldn't go back without me, though.  And I needed to stay with the young driver until police arrived. 

It was the most important near-miss I have every experienced. 

And once again, I know I have the best guardian angel ever. 

I also realize that if Barb has moved on and now sits on Dan's shoulder, I have much to celebrate.  She has been a great protector and she knows where my heart lies.

Danny.  Jack.  Joe.

And that sausage guy that started it all.

I would like to wish every reader out there much love, happiness, and protection for the year ahead.  As for me, I will continue to be humbled at the great many gifts I have been given.

But for a simple turn of fate, how much I would truly miss.

Bless you, Barb.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Contest - Week 28: A Response!

Andrea's going to kill me.  Based on the plague, forgetfulness, and general procrastination, I have taken to emailing a few of my CONTEST letters.

Apparently, this may be against the rules.

Rules I made up and promptly forgot.

Regardless, I'm hoping my worthy competition lets this one slide as I received a lovely form email from the people at Lemax, good for (fingers crossed) one point.

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Thank you for your interest in Lemax Village Collection.

It is great to receive response from consumers like you. It let us know what consumers like or not like. We will forward your message to the related department. Any potential products which are in compliance with the company's marketing strategy we will try the best to produce.

Please keep on writing to us and we value your suggestions/comments. Should you have further question, please feel free to contact us.

Thanks again for your email to www.lemaxcollection.com. Hope you enjoy your collection of Lemax!

Best regards,

Lemax - Customer Service

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A little Lemax love is better than no Lemax love, right?

Check out Andrea's way better entry HERE.  If she lets it slide, my score will be increased to the unsavory number 69.  Or quite possibly, not.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Contest - Week 27: Lemax

Week 27 of The Contest continues!

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Dear Lemax,

I just wanted to let you know that I am not a knick-knack person. I hate Waterford Crystal, Beleek Irish plates, and all things Precious Moments. Anyone who has ever gifted me with one of these items would easily be able to buy them back for a quarter at my yearly garage sale. 

Dustables are society's way of keeping citizens from rising up and demanding a better and more perfect world.

It's a theory, anyway.

There are a few exceptions to my no knick-knack world realm.  Lemax Christmas Village pieces are included.

I LOVE the sh*t.

Like LOVE LOVE LOVE the sh*t.

I don't have enough plugs in my house to contain them all.

Last Christmas, I swore that I needed to put an end to the madness and stop buying more.  But then November rolled around.



The bell tower and little ice pond were like waving Heisenberg's blue baggie in front of a meth addict.  I got them on sale at Michael's with a 20% off coupon.

And I am so happy I did.

I figure that in lieu of having a year-round buying problem or serious drug addiction, Lemax is my contained little love affair.

Thank you for always bringing a little naughty to my nice.

Sincerely,

Marianne Walsh

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So did Lemax respond?  Not yet.  I have a feeling they're filling my latest order.  It could take some time.

My score stands firmly at 68.  Check out the competition HERE!



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Is Daddy Santa Claus?

The following appears in the December issue of Chicago Parent, but had a little inspiration from my buddy Andrea over at Maybe It's Just Me.

When eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote The New York Sun in 1897 to question whether or not there truly was a Santa Claus, the response resulted in one of the most celebrated holiday letters of all time. Francis Pharcellus Church penned the iconic words, assuring the young girl that, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…he exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist.”

Oh how I wish Mr. Church was around today. No, I do not need him to persuade my youngest son, Joey, that there is a Santa Claus. Joey knows that to be true. Rather, I wish he could convince my seven-year-old that his father is not secretly moonlighting as St. Nick himself.

The root cause for Joey’s suspicions is directly tied to his dad’s frequent absences on Christmas day and Christmas Eve. Working as a Chicago firefighter has perpetuated my son’s belief that his old man covertly relies on his emergency home entry skills to deliver toys throughout the world. In Joey’s imaginative young mind, my husband streaks through the night sky, perched high atop his shiny red fire truck pulled along by eight flying Dalmatians.

He may also believe that the other firefighters are exceptionally tall and burly elves.

It is not as though my husband is the jolly sort. In fact, Big Joe is quite possibly the grumpiest person ever to have lived. To quote a classic line from A Christmas Story, “My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master.” That is Big Joe.

Despite his over-worked and cantankerous demeanor, this same guy strives to give his sons everything his screwball wife thinks they should have. He often accepts extra work to help pay for ice hockey, piano lessons, and chess tournaments. He is exceedingly generous, opening his wallet for every neighborhood fundraiser and local kid selling candy for baseball. I roll my eyes when I do laundry, finding fistfuls of the latest charity raffle tickets. I have also never quite forgiven the man for turning over his brand new $40 Christmas gloves to a homeless person several winters ago.

It got me thinking about Mr. Church’s letter again and his strongest argument. “The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.” I have never actually seen my husband save a life as a paramedic. I have never seen him race inside a burning building. I have never seen him march towards a horrific accident scene while maintaining complete composure and professionalism. I have never seen it, but I know it is true.

Perhaps little Joey is onto something. Santa Claus and my husband have never been spotted together in the same room. Big Joe devours fresh baked cookies and cold milk like they are going out of style. And his clothes? I cannot tell you how many times they’ve been tarnished with ashes and soot.

Yes, Joey. There is a Santa Claus. And he just might be your dad. But should you secretly wake up one Christmas Eve to find him agitated and throwing tools across the living room while assembling a new drum set or train tracks?

Please cover your ears.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Contest - Week 26: Kinetic Sand

Week 26 of The Contest continues! 

With Christmas as my inspiration, I found the perfect product to celebrate this week - Kinetic Sand.  Sounds dirty, right?

Not so.

Letter below.

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Dear Kinetic Sand,

I have a sensory kid. Sensory seekers love sand. It is their nature to dive head-first into sandy, grainy heaven whenever the opportunity arises. Sand is their happy place.

I am a sensory mom, but a different kind. I am a sensory avoider.

I HATE SAND.

I hate finding it in the kids’ beds after the beach. I hate when it gets between my toes. I hate shaking out towels full of the stuff. Sand is my mortal enemy.

So what is a mom to do when her 7-year old continues to beg for a sandbox or indoor sand kit? Why, she buys Kinetic Sand for Christmas this year. I found the stuff at a local store and I wanted to see how truly non-messy it was. The stuff is gold. No spillage. No sand in my toes. No sensory overload.

And my first grader will know for a fact that Santa loves him way more than mommy.

On behalf of all the sensory people in my home….

THANK YOU.

Marianne Walsh

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To date, no response.  But I continue to hold out hope.  In the interim, check out Andrea's letter today!  The contest may be getting closer!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Contest: Week 25 - Thera Cane

For Week 25 of The Contest, I decided to hit where it hurts.  Namely, Joe's back.

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Dear Thera Cane –

When my husband, Joe, first opened the package containing his long, candy-cane shaped purchase, I am going to be honest. I thought it was a sex toy. So I immediately
started yelling at my husband.

It didn’t take long for Joe to correct me and share that he had bought Thera Cane for the endless bumps and lumps he builds up in his back working two jobs. I had stopped rubbing out those lumps shortly after we got married. People change. And my hands were really sore. These were a LOT of lumps we were talking.

Since arriving at our house, Thera Cane gets pulled out every other night. My husband complains less and my hands stay intact for all the laundry that needs to be done around here.

On behalf of the entire Walsh family, you have provided a great product:  cheaper than a masseuse and more effective than a tired wife.

You rock.

Sincerely,
,
Marianne Walsh

------------------

As of right now, there has been no response.  But I am still holding out.  Click HERE to see how the competition is faring!

Marianne's score remains at 68.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Week 24: The Contest - Wave Hoop

Week 24 of THE CONTEST brings me to my latest obsession:  HOOPING. 

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Dear Wave Hoop -

As a 41 year-old stay-at-home mom, I thought my window for reinventing myself was long-since closed. Then I discovered your Wave Hoop. Like many moms of a certain age, most cheap little plastic hoops just don’t pass muster against the proud child-bearing hips of the middle-aged woman. As a former hooper, I was convinced I would never experience hooping joy again.

Your Wave Hoop changed all that. The hoop is substantial enough to maintain its old flight pattern around my hips. I was transported back in time to carefree hooping days of lore. The water inside? GENIUS. I have shed two inches from my waist. And I realize now that it is never too late to reinvent oneself.

My name is Marianne. And I hoop.

Sincerely,

Marianne Walsh

-----------------------

Andrea might have me beat this week as to date, nada.

It really doesn't matter.

All the happy hooping endorphins keep me content with my current 68 points.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Best Friends & Burritos

The following appears in the November edition of Chicago Parent.

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It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?"― A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

College graduation. 
My best friend, Jeanette, and I go back 30 years. The fact that my pal did not ditch me in the early 1990s is astounding. I can be difficult and irrational while walking a fine line on this side of sanity.

A recent conversation:

Marianne: I think I want to move to El Salvador so the kids can learn fluent Spanish. I have googled homes and found a charming little one-bedroom made of twigs. Minimalism is awesome.

Jeanette: You’re having a manic episode again. Gimme all your credit cards.

Marianne: Right. Anyway, flights are tricky and I couldn’t find anything on Expedia, but you guys would totally visit for like Christmas, right?

Jeanette: I am just going to hold onto your passport here for a bit, ‘kay?

Jeanette has seen me through bad haircuts, bad boyfriends, and bad postpartum
moments where l cried for hours. After giving birth to my second son, it was Jeanette who drove Jack and me home from Northwestern Hospital as my husband was in the fire academy and unable to leave.

Jeanette remains the only friend who promises to change my diapers when I grow old. If that is not love, I do not know what is.

It got me thinking about my sons and the friends they have selected. They are about the same age I was when I met Jeanette. Would they choose as wisely? I began listening in on recent conversations in hopes of identifying integrity and loyalty amongst the grade school boy set. My findings:

Son #1: You wanna go to the park and see who’s there?

Friend #1: Nah. You got chips?

Son #2: Who wants to play hockey?

Friend #2: Not now. But is your dad home? If he is, ask if I can stay for dinner. If it’s just your mom, I’m sick of cereal.

Hmmph.

Apparently, the dynamics for boy relationships are mostly food-based. I started studying my husband, a guy who maintains decades-long friendships effortlessly, for insight. His chums continue to golf, bowl, and argue politics on a weekly basis. I have seen them fight passionately, but then turn instantly on any stranger who attempts to take sides. “This is between friends, buddy,” they will admonish interlopers, “it has nothing to do with you.”

Joe’s gang represents a diverse cross-section of personalities, interests, and temperaments. There are CEOs, firefighters, policemen, teachers, and lawyers. Most bystanders would be amazed they could get along for five minutes, let alone 30 years. I eavesdropped for secrets to the male bromance.

Joe: You guys wanna do burritos after golf tomorrow?

Friend #1: Sounds good. It’s not like your wife cooks.

*uproarious group laughter*

Hmmph.

In the end, I still cannot put my finger on how exactly one keeps friends for a lifetime. Is it happenstance? An innate sense of loyalty? A shared affinity for midnight burritos? No matter the impetus, I pray my sons will find forever friends who will stand with them without question or judgment. Friends who can lift them when they are down, cajole them when they are misdirected, and stand with them when the world does not.

Most importantly, I hope my boys will offer the same thing right back.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Week 23: The Contest - Hefty

In case you missed it, I sort of gave myself a bye week recently for The Contest.

I got distracted by all the Halloween candy.

No matter!  I'm back and with short days and seasonal depression, I went to the dark side, all in the name of good fun.

I kill me sometimes.

-----------------------------------------

Dear Hefty,

I am not sure if you are aware, but your black Hefty garbage bags are getting a bum rap. In recent years, every time Dexter disposed of a body on HBO or police carried evidence from a crime scene on the nightly news, there were your bags. It was as though the world was trying to paint you as some sort of evil co-conspirator. This is grossly unfair to you and the great product you provide.

Hefty is so much more than simply the bag of choice for serial killers hiding the bodies. As a mom, I have found your garbage bags invaluable. I can stash a year’s worth of outgrown clothes into a single bag for Goodwill. All autumn leaves from our solitary tree fit comfortably into one bag as well. Hefty bags are practically miraculous in their ability to store infinite amounts of items without running out of room.

It is almost as though Jesus made them.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I don’t think ill of your glorious black bags even when so many want to criminalize your awesomeness. You have been there for me for countless moves, garbage disposal, and tarp usage. It is my duty to be there for you as well.

Sincerely,

Marianne Walsh

---------------------------

Well, I thought I was funny.

But I'm thinking Hefty may be holding a grudge as there has been no response as of yet, leaving my current score at 68.

To check out the competition, visit Andrea!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Merry Halloween!

This post is for all those who don't buy Halloween candy early because you would just explode like a hungry guppy.

But Christmas?

You've been planning that baby since July.

I've got  your guidelines for kid shopping, free gifts for the husband, and even a Dyson Deal ready to go!  Visit HERE for today's Chicago Parent!


When I die, please have Joe scatter my ashes here.  Just remind the Dyson people not to vacuum me up.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Week 21: The Contest - Battroborgs

I believe every child growing up during the Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica era has a serious robot fetish.  It may help explain my Week 21 letter for The Contest.  Did I get some robot love back?  Find out below!

-----------------------------------

Dear Battroborg,

I first came across your Battroborg fighting robot set at the Chicago toy show last year.

I was immediately smitten.

And I totally wanted one.

But I didn’t want to share it with my kids. Given I had already completed the bulk of my holiday shopping at that point, I fought the urge to purchase a set because I suck at the whole “taking turns” thing.

But this year?

It’s on the list.


It's been crazy difficult to resist opening this puppy until Christmas. I shouldn't have bought it so early, but DUDE.  It was on sale. 

Over the last eight months, whenever I spied Battroborgs at friends’ homes, I mysteriously disappeared to “check on the children.” For, like, an hour.

Because I needed to play with angry robots.

I am not sure what this reveals about me or my maturity level, but thank you for creating a product that the whole family will enjoy.

Once I actually let them.

Kind regards,

Marianne Walsh

----------------------------------

Would you believe I got a response from an actual person and not a robot??

I also received some of these cute little guys.  I am not sure what precisely they do because the Battroborgs I have played with didn't have drones. 

Perhaps they do laundry?

But I am intrigued.

Thank you, Battroborgs, for keeping Christmas fun this year and not replacing your workforce with robots.

Because I know you totally could if you wanted to.

This brings my total score to 68.  To check out the competition, visit Andrea today!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Week 20: The Contest - Windex

When Andrea and I started The Contest, the purpose was to celebrate products we used while proving that being funny and nice is the way to go.  Some weeks, I have struggled to identify products I am 100% devoted to, which makes me wonder why I didn't think of Windex much earlier:

Obviously, I have a problem.
If there isn't a bottle of Windex within reachable distance of me at all times, I get twitchy.  As evidenced by clicking HERE, there is also the tin-foil wearing, conspiracy-loving part of me who might believe Windex is the secret cure for ebola.

But it was a relatively new Windex product that inspired my letter this time, read on below!
-----------------------------------------

Dear Windex,

When you showed up at BlogHer a couple of years ago in Chicago with your big fancy booth, we were all supposed to ooh and ahh over your new Windex Touch-Up Cleaner. Your smiling representatives thrust a sample into my over-stocked goodie bag, and I reluctantly accepted it.

My mistake.

I should have grabbed the entire motherload before security escorted me out. I LOVE THIS STUFF. I use it on our counters every time my messy husband splatters chicken juice across three time-zones while tenderizing future fajita meat.

I use it when my three boys “miss.”

And they miss a lot.

I use it when Midwestern plagues move through Chicago, relegating kids to their beds and mothers to their mid-afternoon wine while desperately wishing the sickies were back in school. I use it ALL THE FREAKING TIME.

Which leads me back to not appreciating you two years ago at BlogHer. I am sorry. I was so very wrong. Please find it in your heart to forgive me. I have learned my lesson.

Sincerely,

Marianne Walsh

--------------------------------

So did Windex write me off as another odd stalker fan?

Nope. 

They responded BIG:

My favorite part?  They bubble-wrapped the Windex spray bottle...it was as though they KNEW.
This brings my total score to 63.  To check out the competition, visit Andrea today!

And thank you, Windex, for having a great sense of humor and an even greater selection of cleaning products!  Shout stain remover has removed poop from my carpet....and do you know how hard POOP is to get out of one's carpet?

Sorry.  I'm just really excited.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In Pursuit of the Prodigy

The following appears in the October edition of Chicago Parent.

Oh I tried.

Producing a child prodigy was something that would negate my many mothering flaws. Early on, I went about the business of making it happen. For every profanity overheard at the grocery store, for every missed picture day, for every instance I forgot snack mom duties, I would at least be able to point at my child genius and say, “I couldn’t have sucked that much…now play some Beethoven, dear.”

At first, I pursued music. Private lessons all the way. Piano, violin, and cello - my own stringed trio. Yet after seven years of battling the kids over practice time, I have come to the realization that nobody is locking in a spot at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. They continue to bang away at it, though. And I continue to buy ear plugs.

Up next was chess. I found the #2 high school chess player in the entire state of Illinois. He arrived weekly to share his secrets of moving around the horsie…or whatever it is they do in chess. The lad was a child prodigy himself, heading off this fall to study chemical engineering on a full academic scholarship. Yet after several years of lessons, my kids might offer a decent game of chess, but Bobby Fischer they certainly are not.

Perhaps I had been going about it the wrong way. Maybe my kids were destined to be athletic phenomenons instead! A future Tiger Woods even. I spent my entire Botox savings account on sports camps this summer. The end result?

Not one of the boys can do a decent lay-up, serve overhand, or pitch 90 miles per hour. My hockey player has problems stopping on the ice, and my swimmer doesn’t understand the mechanics of a backstroke. My worry lines deepened.

This might have been due to the lack of Botox.

My husband, in typical fashion, offered his take on things as I lamented all the wasted time and money trying to find a certain area of excellence or endeavor that would define each kid’s life.

“Marianne, how cool is it that our boys will be decent enough to play softball with their buddies, hit the local pub to bang out some Billy Joel on the piano, and finally turn and play the owner at a game of chess?”

I was confused.

“You know what our kids’ niche will be?” he questioned dramatically.

“Drinking beer?”

“Nope. GETTING GIRLS. They will be Renaissance men. The whole package. And best of all, we won’t have wasted all those years on travel teams and national chess meets.”

Ironically, Joe did get me wondering.

Girls.

Future wives.

Grandchildren.

Maybe I had gone about it all wrong! Maybe by not specializing on one certain area the whole way through, I had diluted talents and interests! But there will be grandchildren! As I googled “Grandchildren” and “Prodigies,” my husband mumbled that I also need to plan on all our future daughters-in-law moving out of state.

But I will find them.

I always do.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Week 19 - The Contest: Hostess

So here's the thing. I got a little behind on my letter writing for The Contest.  I'm going to blame it on all my chauffeuring responsibilities coupled with a bout of autumn seasonal depression.  In hasty realization that Andrea has an entire year's worth of letters ready to go, I dropped a line to Hostess.

Maybe it was four lines.

While brief, it still reflects the joy I feel at the return of Twinkies. 

---------------------------------------

Dear Hostess,

THANK YOU.

I missed you.

I loved you.

I knew you would be back.

Sincerely,

Marianne Walsh

-------------------------------------

So did Hostess respond?  To be fair, they probably just got my letter this week.  As of right now, my score holds at 53.  Poor Andrea had no idea of the depths of my ADHD when we started this.  I best get busy writing letters before she kills me.

Or even better?

EAT CHEETOS.

squirrel

********************IMPORTANT UPDATE*****************

No sooner did I wake up from my afternoon nap than I found this in the mail from Hostess:


I am starting to wonder if brevity is the key to letter-writing success. 

Anyway, revised score now stands at 58.  SCORE!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Week 18 - The Contest: Swingline Stapler


For Week 18 of The Contest, I admit to one of the few crimes I have ever committed in life.

Please don't think less of me.
-----------------------

Dear Swingline Stapler,

Normally, I do not steal things. In fact, I am the type of person who will march right back into the grocery store to pay for the case of bottled water when the cashier fails to notice it under the cart. I feel guilty when I think of doing something wrong. I blame my Catholic upbringing and an extra strand of culpability in the old double helix.

Sadly, I wound up ruining my 100% honesty rating courtesy of your bright red Swingline stapler. It all started with a history of wretched staplers during the late 1990s. I would break and jam just about every one that came across my desk. As I furtively tried to combine 100 pages of insurance jargon and gobbledy-gook, profane and foul language sprang from my mouth as though I was speaking in tongues. I needed to end the madness.

And go to confession.

In 2002, I was embarking on a new job for a start-up insurance company when the office manager tossed an Office Max catalogue on the desk. She advised me to select whatever supplies I needed to do my job. As I leafed through thousands of pages of offerings, I worried no product out there could withstand my frustrated blows while I joined stacks of collated press releases and financial statements together.

And then I saw it.

The red Swingline stapler.

Just like Milton’s from Office Space.

It was movie-star sexy. I giddily placed my order and let me tell you…waiting for that stapler to appear was like counting down the days until Christmas morning. When it finally arrived, I picked up a monster stack of collated materials and shoved it between the grips of Big Red.

Big Red delivered.

My love was unholy.

More confession.

Over the next five years, Big Red never failed. So when it came time for me to move on from that job, I knew I could not leave this treasured and loyal companion behind for some random office worker to abuse or discard. Big Red was coming with me.

In my purse.

Quietly.

And I didn’t feel guilty. The hardest part about my life as a now-criminal is full disclosure. Every time I have to fill out an employment application, “Have you ever stolen anything from your workplace?” I have to fess up. But I don’t regret it for one second. Thank you for injecting a little “bad girl” into this old double helix,

Sincerely,

Marianne Walsh

-------------------------------------------

So did Swingline respond?

They totally did.

They sent a small magnetic message board (they must be aware of my memory issues) and some other goodies, but damned if I can remember where I put them.  I hope Andrea (the competition) takes my word for it.

Anyway, this brings my current total to 53.  The march to letter supremacy continues next week!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

What's 50 Questions Between Friends?

The cosmos failed miserably by not placing Shannon from The Deepest Worth in my house growing up. She could easily pass for my sister, and Lord knows I could have used her calming force during my family's teen years (or as I refer to them, "The time I tried to kill Megan with a hairdryer").

Anyhoo, Miss Shannon tagged me to answer fifty questions about myself. Normally, I skip out on this sort of thing because I am a rebel and I'll never ever be any good. But for family? You do stuff. So here goes! 

Back when I still liked Shannon before she made me answer all these damn questions.

1. What are you wearing?

My pink fuzzy robe that I normally don for morning school drop-offs.

2. Ever been in love?

Yes.  There is the guy I married followed by the three boys who keep asking for food.

3. Ever have a terrible break-up?

Disappointing ones, sure.  Terrible?  I do regret being a jackass and hastily breaking up with someone over the phone during the Oscars because I wanted to see if Life is Beautiful would get Best Picture.  Twenty-somes are not the most compassionate people. Wherever you are, Oscar Break-Up guy, I am truly sorry.

4. How tall are you?

Six feet.  What is this, a medical questionnaire?

5. How much do you weigh?

You want my resting pulse next? 

6. Any tattoos?

I was going to get one for my 40th birthday, but then I forgot.  It was going to be some clich├ęd Celtic thing incorporating my kids.  Or maybe a really original barbed wire thing all the cool kids are getting.

7. Any piercings?

Ears, multiple times, but I only wear one set now.  Occasionally, I re-poke out the old holes just to feel young and sassy.

8. OTP (One true pair, favorite fictional couple?)

Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights.  I totally wanted to be Catherine.  Until...you know...she dies.

9. Favorite Show?

Breaking Bad is the best show ever written, produced, and acted (and possibly sound-tracked).  Its perfect arc from start to finish was meticulously planned and executed.  There are nuances of canonized works throughout; the biggest influence obviously being Milton's concepts of pride, temptation, and the fortunate fall. 

10. Favorite Bands?

It's a toss-up.  Journey or The Monkees.  Yes, I am aware that I am dork.

11. Something you miss?

Puddin' Pops.

12. Favorite Song?

Don Henley's Boys of Summer.  Lyrically, it's rather depressing. But it always puts me in a great mood.

13. How old are you?

I'm not answering any more medical questions.

14. Zodiac sign?

Wack-a-doodle.

15. Quality to look for in a partner?

Mental toughness.  Sorry, Alan Alda, I have always preferred men who don't crack under pressure. Cracking is my thing.   

16. Favorite Quote?

"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."  -  Kurt Vonnegut

17. Favorite Actor?

Gary Sinise.

18. Favorite Color?

Green.

19. Loud music or soft?

Soft music played loudly.  Think: blasting Dan Fogelberg.

20. Where do you go when you are sad?

To wine.

21.  How long does it take you to shower?

Why?  You planning on robbing my house?

22.  How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

For morning carpool?  Dude.  I wear a pink robe and don't comb my hair. 

23. Ever been in a physical fight?

See aforementioned "I tried to kill Megan with a hairdryer."

24. Turn on?

Unconditional love.

25. Turn-off?

The inability to laugh.

26. The reason I started blogging?

I couldn't write a thank-you note without looking up "sincerely" in a dictionary.

27. Fears?

Harm to loved ones.  Possums.  Heights.  Ebola.

28. Last thing that made you cry?

A photo of a military mom hugging her kids goodbye.

29. Last time you said you loved someone?

About five minutes ago to my youngest.  I say "I love you" more often than I blink.

30. Meaning behind the name of your blog (We Band of Mothers)?

It's a spin on the St. Crispin's Day speech in Shakespeare's Henry V:

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered -
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother....

My purpose was to invoke the same kind of shared experience and valor behind motherhood.

31. Last book you read?

Just finished up Dick & Jane (volume 9) about twenty minutes ago.  See. Spot. Go.

32. Book you are currently reading?

I start and stop reading books constantly, and then I begin mixing up the plots.  Right now, I am trying not to confuse Fairy & Folk Tales of Ireland with Oprah.

33. Last show you watched?

Whatever foodie show Joe had on before bed last night.

34. Last person you talked to?

My youngest, Joey.  Our dialogue never really ends, mostly because neither one of us  stops talking.

35. The relationship between you and the person you just texted?

We are of no relation, sir.  (Can you name the movie?  Can ya?  Can ya??)

36. Favorite food?

Cake.  No, wait.  COOKIES.  Hang on.  Yes....CAKE.  This was the hardest question yet.

7. Place you want to visit?

I'd like to see the Catacombs of Rome before I die.

38. Last place you were?

I was there before I was here.

39.  Do you have a crush?

Let's just say I wouldn't throw Chris Hemsworth out of bed.

40. Last time you kissed someone?

Again, Joey.  The kid lives at my elbow.  He might be under the impression that I am Jesus.

Last time you were insulted?

Joey told me five minutes ago I needed a shower.  As if. 

42. Favorite flavor of sweet?

Sweet red.

What instruments do you play?

I have remedial piano skills, just enough to convince the kids I know whether they have practiced or not.

44. Favorite piece of jewelry?

A beaded necklace Danny made for me in preschool.

45. Last sport you played?

Tennis.

46. Last song you sang?

I hum and sing I'll Fly Away all the time.  I think it makes the kids nervous.

47. Favorite chat up line?

Wanna take a 50-question quiz?

48. Have you ever used it?

I'm about to.

49.  Last time you hung out with anyone?

I am never, ever alone.  As a borderline recluse, this is very unnerving.

50. Who should answer these questions next?

Ooooh.  Who is going to kick me off their Christmas card list?  How about the hilarious Andi from Delusions of Ingenuity, the funny AND crafty Kirby from Kirb Appeal, and the funny-turns-profound-turns-arty Lillian from It's a Dome Life.

Please don't kill me.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Week 17: The Contest - H2O

For Week 17 of The Contest, I chose vanity.  I discovered H2O products through a friend, but not being much of a beauty product kinda gal, it took me a while to give the stuff a whirl.  My thoughts?  See letter below.  Also, if you have a chance to swing by Chicago Parent, there is an essay on my recent eviction from Little Kid Land.  It's more painful than one might think.

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Dear H2O,

Please forgive me for admitting this as it runs counter to everything you stand for, but until recently?

I washed my face with Dial soap every night.

If I remembered to wash my face at all.

I have always been a low-maintenance kind of gal, refusing to believe that some fancy-schmanzy elixir could really offer the fountain of youth. After all, I thought I was holding up rather well, looking far younger than my 41 years.

Until I tried on my mom’s glasses one afternoon.

Hol. E. Freaking. God.

I had more wrinkles than a Chinese Shar-Pei. Why hadn’t anyone told me??

I’m guessing my husband wanted to extend his life.

Anyway, I researched various facial remedies for the much-dreaded “the corners of my eyes look like the Grand Canyon” malady, and found your Face Oasis Hydrating Treatment. I noticed right away that my make-up no longer pooled and cracked in the deep divots of my peepers. I appeared fresher, younger, and less like I soaked myself in rubbing alcohol each night. I never thought this whole skin care thing had merit.

Yet I have officially renounced all ties to Dial.

Your convert,

Marianne Walsh

---------------------------------------------

Did H20 flood me with goodies (see what I did there...flood....water....I kill me).

OF COURSE.  Check out the haul below:

I shall be beautiful forever.
This brings my tally to 48.  To check out the competition, visit Andrea HERE.  The game is still tight and I'm suddenly re-thinking my decision to write Tiffany's. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Week 16: The Contest - Brookstone

Hi, gang!  It's already Week 16 of The Contest and things are heating up. 

I have also been busy waxing philosophical about PLAYDATES and BACK-TO-SCHOOL meltdowns over at Chicago Parent, so stop by if you're looking for a good rant. 

I rant with the best of them.

------------------------------------------

Dear Brookstone,

I get cold feet.

Like a lot.

I don’t know if comes from living in Chicago, having hardwood floors, or possessing some rare foot anomaly, but my extremeties could easily be used to reduce the swelling in the sick and elderly.

My husband, oddly enough, has very warm feet. He refuses to let my tootsies anywhere near his side of the bed each night, insisting I could cause a heart attack with incidental contact.

As an aside, I really don’t think he’s taking the whole “for better or for worse” thing very seriously.

Anyway, I have never had much luck finding good house slippers that retain warmth while providing adequate support. That was until I got a pair of your Brookstone Comfort Slippers. Upon first sliding into my pair of these gems, life changed. My icicles thawed. I could feel the temperature of my entire body rise. I giddily cast aside the three pairs of socks I had been wearing and swore to never again be relegated to keeping my feet away from my husband, children, and rogue shoe salesman.

I am a new woman.

A new woman with warm feet.

Thank you for this amazing product. You may have not only saved a pair of feet, but a marriage and the eternal happiness of frozen footed moms everywhere.

Kind regards,


Marianne Walsh

---------------------------------

As of today's date, no response.

But I'm still holding out.

My total remains at 43.  For the competition's entry, stop by Andrea's HERE!

See you next week!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Week 15: The Contest - Honda

So maybe I was being a little irrational hoping for a new minivan for Week 15 of The Contest.

But perhaps a free oil change?

Read below for this week's entry!
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Dear Honda,
 
So here’s the thing. I love Hondas. I mean love them, love them. Like a lot. Think rum wrapped in bacon dipped in chocolate kind of love. And then multiply by ten.

My husband and I currently own a 2002 Honda CRV and a 2005 Honda Odyssey. They both have well over 100,000 miles on them and have been ridiculously reliable, low-maintenance, and, well, sexy.

Please just don’t tell my husband I said that.

My calm children.
I cannot thank you enough for making automobiles which have seamlessly survived treacherous Chicago winters parked outdoors, road trips across the United States, and three little boys hell bent on destroying everything in their path. These wonderful cars have also seen newborns safely home from the hospital, my husband to his jobs, and my sister-in-law and groom chauffeured home just this past November.

These cars have been there for 2 am trips to the Emergency Room and afternoon rides to soccer practices. They have transported those in mourning, those in need, and those who mean the most to us in the entire world.

So thank you, nice Honda people.

Thank you.

Marianne Walsh

----------------------------------

Riding the high wave of good responses, I was stoked when I received a call from Honda (1 point).  I was all ready to say "I'd like this one in red."

Apparently a funny letter doesn't get you as far as it used to.

But they did thank me for the nice words and asked if they could put it on their website.

Which brings my score to 43.

To check out the competition, visit HERE.


Friday, September 5, 2014

The Contest: Week 14 - Mariano's

For this week of The Contest, I opted for something a little different.  Still mending my broken heart from the Chicago departure of my favorite grocery store (Dominick's), I wrote our new preferred option, Mariano's.  Was the fragile new relationship reciprocal?  Find out below!

---------------------------

Dear Mr. Mariano,

I was a Dominick’s devotee. Born and raised.  I was the kid in the shopping cart with the box of animal crackers glued to the tank of live lobsters.  I dreamt of one day being a Dominick’s cashier, all sophisticated and mathematical.  When I look back at my childhood, it feels like half of it was spent in that most cherished and magical of grocery stores.

I am now the mom.  My three boys also grew up in Dominick’s, again with those same animal crackers and a strong interest in locating that elusive lobster tank they’d heard so much about.  It was painful to take the final walk on Christmas Eve, to face those empty shelves, and to hug the employees goodbye.  These were warm and caring people who doted on my kids, offered up free cheese, and never, ever forgot to smile.
I feared I would never know grocery store love again.
But dude.
I was totally wrong.
Like a lost widow still grieving her most cherished of loves, I half-heartedly entered Mariano’s last week.
And holy flippity floppity fudge.

Mariano’s ROCKS.

I mean REALLY.  I don’t know about you, Mr. Mariano, but I can’t cook fish to save my freaking life.  I’ve accidentally food-poisoned my family.  Twice. Yet questionable cooking abilities are not a problem at this new-fangled, other-worldly grocery store.

They cook it for you! 

And the food.  THE FOOD.

My gaping emotional wound began healing almost instantly.
So thank you, Mr. Mariano.  Thank you for bringing a terrific store to Chicago and helping mend my broken heart.  I am so very grateful.

As are my boys.

No more food poisoning, you see.
Sincerely,
 
Marianne Walsh
-----------------------------
Before I post the response, I can't be the ONLY one who remembers the live lobster tanks at Dominick's, right??
Anyway, Mr. Mariano totally responded with a brand-spanking new gift card and personal letter to my mailbox.  Score!  That brings my total to 42.  For Andrea's post, visit HERE!
Just wait...many more surprises to come! 
 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Danny in Charge

The following article appears in the September edition of Chicago Parent magazine.

Danny the day before Jack was born - 15 months old. 
There are sweet moments in time parents wish to retain forever.   Yet trying to locate a scrap of paper and pen in the middle of bath time is not always feasible.  Funny expressions and mispronunciations  are priceless nuggets of childhood, gone in a blink. 

“I won’t ever forget this,” parents tell themselves.

The sad truth?  Most moms and dads leak brains.  Somewhere between expecting a baby and surviving four seasons of tee-ball, I forgot not only precious memories, but also my phone number, age, and where I last put the car keys.

Despite this unnerving progression towards senility, one twinkling instant in time from my early years as a mom remains bright.

My first son Danny was not yet two years old.  We were downtown in our cramped condo with two babies.  After a long work day, I came home to find not a scoop of formula left.  Aggravated, I prepared to head out to the nearest Walgreens.  It was a dark and snowy winter night in Chicago, and I muttered unhappily while bundling up. 

It was then I spotted Danny tugging at his coat, advising:

“I go too!”

We walked towards the elevator, and Danny ran ahead to press the down button.  Once inside, he also knew which button delivered us directly to the lobby. 

It was practically a blizzard outside, but my little boy forged ahead with brazen confidence while grabbing my hand to lead the way.

Covered in snow, Danny pushed through the rotating doors at Walgreens with surprising strength.  I was still dusting myself off as he hustled over to the baby aisle, locating the correct container in seconds for his infant brother.

“I find it, Mommy!  I find it!”

Danny insisted on carrying the plastic bag home.  Then there came the moment that defined my child forever in my heart.

Danny looked up at me and smiled the most dazzling smile I have ever seen.

The kid had been harboring a secret wish to be 40 years old from the time he was born, and he finally had his crack at adulthood.

When he was three, Danny’s preschool teachers never kept track in games because Danny always knew whose turn it was.  At four, he was anxious for income and drew up a marketing plan for his lemonade stand.

By five, he peppered us with questions on investment banking.

Recently, a friend shared a story about her own son, now grown.  The boy had a history of putting neighbors into heart failure.    

The kid liked climbing onto roofs. 

And then jumping off them. 

My friend laughed heartily at the recollection and finally delivered the punchline. 

Because now? 

That boy is paratrooper for the U.S. army.

As parents, we pretend we have some huge say into who our kids become.  Hearing that story and remembering my own Alex P. Keaton, I understand kids are born with personality traits as pre-determined and fixed as their fingerprints.

Danny?  He is always going to want to be in charge.

One day, I will actually let him.

And I cannot wait to see that brilliant smile once again.
 
 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Contest: Week 13 - Post Its

For Week 13 of The Contest, I had a hard time remembering who I wrote.

I should have put it on a Post-It.

Oh, wait.
-----------------------------------

Dear Post-It,

I am not a tech-savvy mom.  I do not program appointments into a fancy iPhone.  I do not receive email alerts regarding my subscription refills.  I am not even able to turn off my clock radio in the morning without waking up the entire family.

Even worse than being electronically challenged is having no memory.   I once considered giving all my children the exact same name so I’d remember which ones were mine at school pick-up.

Sadly, there is not an arsenal of tools readily available for a forgetful mom on the go.  And even if there was, I probably would have forgotten that information by now. 

But thank goodness for Post-Its. 

Bright, beautiful Post-Its. 

Post-Its do not require programming, batteries, or charging.  They stick elegantly to my refrigerator - reminding me when the next parent-teacher conference is every time I reach for a gallon of milk.  And because of Post-Its, I never run out of milk. 

Post-Its are my best friend.

My kids love them as well.  Unlike regular pieces of notebook paper or notepads, many Post-It notes come perfectly square.  While you may not think this is such a big deal, when you have kids who love origami, having ready-made perfect squares saves a lot of time in crafting a super-fleet of mini- Roman ships.

In a digital environment determined to rid the world of pen and paper, I stand in solid opposition.  The beauty, elegance, and simplicity of a hand-written note secretly planted in a school or work lunch is what love is all about

A real smiley face. 

Doodled hearts. 

A simple “I love you.

This is all done in a mother’s easily recognizable handwriting, a style that will be remembered and cherished no matter how many years have passed or how old that child becomes.

No, I do not want to live in a world without Post-Its. 

So never forget that.

But if you think you may, I can write a reminder on a Post-It for you.

Sincerely,


Marianne Walsh

----------------------------------------------

So did Post-It answer?  As of today's posting, no.  This keeps my point total at 37.  But never fear, I never stay down long. 

*maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh*

To check out the competition, visit Andrea HERE!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Crack Dealers Got Nothin' on Build-a-Bear

The time we were lucky to escape with milk money at Build-a-Bear, click HERE for today's Chicago Parent.

Too bad the kid loves the joint.  See what I did there?

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Monkees, Micky Dolenz & Me

I grew up in a family with four kids, so naturally we spent a lot of time fighting over what to watch on our one television.

I liked Speed Racer.

My sister, Megan, adored Space Giants.

Johnny and Joey were devoted to all things baseball.

It was rare for us to agree on a single show, but there was one solitary exception.

That show was The Monkees.

Me (on right) looking like a Monkee myself and my mom looking HOT. 

As we watched old re-runs, we would sit immobile, mesmerized by the Neil Diamond and Carole King penned tunes.  Micky Dolenz, despite modern reports to the contrary, was the true front man of the group, not Davy Jones. Dolenz sang lead on seven of the group's ten biggest hits. 

I worshipped him.  His amazing vocal range and downright silliness were a two-pronged attack on my heart.  Interestingly, several of his songs are finding new popularity courtesy of cable television. Todd and Walt cooked meth together  to Goin' Down on Breaking BadMad Men featured The Porpoise Song.

Dolenz did not write many tunes for The Monkees, but he did write my favorite. The song is Randy Scouse Git, and it encompasses his experiences meeting his future wife ("the being known as Wondergirl") and The Beatles ("the four kings of EMI") while visiting London.

The song starts out all light-hearted and happy.  Micky makes faces into the camera.  We are meant to believe this song and the man himself have very little substance.

But then the tempo changes.

The song becomes angry, accusatory, and indignant.  The final refrain:

Why don't you cut your hair?
Why don't you live up there?
Why don't you do what I do,
See what I feel when I care?
Why don't you be like me?
Why don't you stop and see?
Why don't you hate who I hate,
Kill who I kill to be free.

It is Mr. Dolenz's opus.

And it still speaks to me to this day.

Often, I feel the need to play the role of the clown.  In a world where everyone is screaming for validation, FEEL MY PAIN!  SEE MY HURT!  SUPPORT MY CAUSE!, the clown is the safe role.  The clown is not expected to have substantial thoughts.  The clown is pliable to the rhetoric at hand.

It is a master disguise.

And Micky Dolenz knew it.

But he showed his hand with Randy Scouse Git.  He was tired of getting yelled at.

Like Micky, I am on empathy overload, not humanly capable of feeling extreme passion over every pain, every hurt, and every cause that screams across my television, computer, and newspaper.  Sometimes, like Micky, I just want to find a place to hide.  Does this make me apathetic?  Or simply numb to screaming?

Perhaps it is a call to start minding those who speak in whispers and thoughtful reflection.  The poets.  The songwriters.  The composers. 

Randy Scouse Git has never been more timely or needed.  I hope everyone gives it a listen and takes something away from it.

There is gold in that curly-haired tablecloth.



Friday, August 22, 2014

The Contest: Week 12 - JanSport School Bags

Just in time for back-to-school, I decided to profess my admiration for JanSport school bags for The Contest.  Find out the results below and where this puts Andrea and I in our ultimate battle for letter-writing superiority!
---------------------------------------

Dear JanSport,
 
I have three boys.  Perhaps if you have sons, you are aware of the demolition properties of the male sex.  Over the last decade, my boys have ripped apart the stitching in the family minivan, broke apart the front door, and disassembled every baby gate I ever owned.

Despite this, they are good kids.  They play chess, the piano, and ice hockey.  They are extremely kind and compassionate to their friends and neighbors.  They never mean to cause damage, and they are always very remorseful when it happens. 

It’s just that they are pretty much the equivalent of the iceberg in relation to the RMS Titanic.

Based on previous experience, it was always assumed I’d be buying two or three school bags a year for each son.  Whether it was ripped stitching or another busted zipper, no bag seemed capable of surviving a full semester with my boys.

Yet that all changed this year when I bought JanSport bags.

In the midst of one of the coldest and harshest winters in Chicago history, our three JanSport bags stand proud.  There is hardly a scratch or blemish on them.  They look as good now as the day I bought them.

Thank you, JanSport.  In today’s world where everything seems designed for a limited life-span, you have restored my faith in quality goods.  On behalf of my family, thank you.

Now if you might consider designing kid shoes, I would really appreciate it. 

Sincerely,

Marianne Walsh

--------------------------------------------

So did they chuckle?  Did they call?  Did they drop an extra-strong new bag in my lap?

Nope.

No matter.  I'm still devoted.  Once again, I am going to assume they are monograming a new product just for me.  Perhaps #1 Mom in gold thread.

It's important to have dreams.

Anyway, that leaves my score firmly at 37.  Find out how Andrea did today by clicking HERE!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sending Kids Back to School with a Message

In today's Chicago Parent, I felt it was the right time to talk to my kids about more than just doing homework and behaving in school.

Heading back to school can be traumatic for many parents and children.

Read about it HERE.

Shipping the boys out last year.